Another New Housing Minister As Reshuffle Focuses On Property

Another New Housing Minister As Reshuffle Focuses On Property

Online estate agent Tepilo takes a look at the prime minister’s recent reshuffle, which saw another new Housing Minister appointed.

It turned out to be the major reshuffle that wasn’t, with most major ministers keeping their jobs and Theresa May accused of failing to demote both Justine Greening (who instead resigned) and Jeremy Hunt (who was promoted).

Below we take a look at some interesting developments of the reshuffle from a housing viewpoint.

Yet another new Housing Minister

Yes, the sixteenth different Housing Minister since 1997 is now in place, with Reading West MP Alok Sharma replaced by Dominic Raab after just seven months in the role.

Sharma, who had been promoted to the position in June 2017, has been appointed as the new employment minister.

So, who is the new man overseeing housing? Well, he's likely to be a more familiar name to people than Sharma, having been a vocal campaigner for Leave during the EU referendum.

His previous ministerial positions include Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Civil Liberties and Minister of State for Courts and Justice.

He was elected as the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton at the 2010 election but, like his predecessor, comes to the role with little experience of housing.

Housing given Cabinet boost

There have long been calls for housing to have a seat at the Cabinet table, given its importance to voters and the smooth running of the country. This wish was finally granted in May’s latest reshuffle, with Sajid Javid reappointed with a slightly different title.

He is now the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – the housing bit was added on Monday, a sign of the increased focus May and the Conservatives are placing on this issue – which means the housing department will now be represented at cabinet level.

Javid, who has already been at the forefront of many housing consultations and has worked closely with trade bodies to formulate new policies on the sales sector and the PRS, said he was delighted with his altered role.

“Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government,” he commented. “The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.”

The move will give hope to many that Theresa May's promise to fix the broken housing market and make housing the central priority of her premiership wasn't merely hot air and rhetoric. It suggests that housing is going to be taken more seriously by the government as a key domestic issue, up there with health, education, the economy and defence.

There is certainly plenty for Raab and Javid to be getting on with, including proposed leasehold reform and increasing the number of affordable homes for first-time buyers. There are a number of consultations ongoing, too.

At the recent Budget, the Chancellor Philip Hammond made some bold housing pledges – promising that the government would build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. The government has for a while talked a good game on affordable housing and helping more first-time buyers onto the ladder, but critics say this hasn't been backed up with decisive action.

A senior minister adding housing to his brief may now give more kudos to the commitments made by Theresa May and Philip Hammond on housebuilding.

How has the housing industry reacted?

The appointment of Raab, a legal expert and outspoken Brexiteer, has raised some eyebrows in an industry that has long been used to Housing Ministers coming and going like London buses.

Some have suggested that there is little point getting to know the new man in the hotseat, as history dictates that he won’t be in the position for long.

As an example, Gavin Barwell oversaw the Housing White Paper, Sharma tried to implement some of the measures within it, and now Raab will take on the mantle.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, urged the prime minister to give Raab enough time to do the job properly, while his appointment was met with more enthusiasm by NAEA and ARLA Propertymark.

“We would like to congratulate Dominic Raab on his appointment to Minister of State for Housing,” they said in a joint statement. “We have been working closely with Alok Sharma in this role previously, alongside Sajid Javid as Communities Secretary, to make suggestions on plans to ultimately regulate the sector and make the process of buying, selling, renting or leasing a property better for consumers.”

Another key voice of the industry, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), also congratulated Raab on his appointment and said it was looking forward to working with him ‘across the private rental sector, housing supply and planning reform’.

While the announcement of another new Housing Minister will have caused a resigned shrug from many in the industry, the news that housing will now have a position on the Cabinet table has been welcomed as a far more positive step in the right direction.